Many young people unaware of Health Care Act fine

March 29, 2011 11:50:20 PM PDT
As Democratic members of Congress play up the Affordable Health Care Act, there are signs that it might actually hurt the president with a constituency that was key to his campaign in 2008.

Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard Koh came to Oakland to celebrate the first anniversary of the Affordable Healthcare Act.

"In one year we have extended the promise of coverage to millions of people," said Koh.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, visited a community health clinic South of Market.

"It will not be repealed. It will not be repealed, but we have to protect various aspects of it in terms of the funding," said Pelosi.

In the face of Republican opposition in Congress, Democratic leaders and the Obama administration are pushing the positive aspects of the healthcare law, but there is a provision they rarely bring up unless asked.

"Well the mandate is very important to the efforts that we are talking about today and celebrating today and moving forward," said Koh.

The individual mandate is the provision that requires everyone to have health insurance by 2014. If you don't have it you'll pay a fine.

Ranzel Merritt found out today that fine is $750. Most of the young people ABC7 spoke with at UC Berkeley didn't know about that provision.

Those who did know said the following.

"I personally don't like it I think if people are able to afford their own health care they should not be required to buy health insurance," said Andy Nevis.

"And I'm forced to pay for this monolith of a system which is inefficient and ineffective," said senior Jim Allen.

"I feel like if they're making us buy health care, I mean, if you want to have healthcare so bad it should be free, like realistically free health care," said a female student.

ABC7's political analyst Prof. Bruce Cain says that fits the polling.

"You've got a lot of people right now who feel they're too healthy, they don't need it, they can't afford it, and they don't have health insurance," said Cain.

Add to that the fact that young people are struggling to find good jobs and it adds up to a recipe for defection from the Obama camp.

"In fact, I would predict at this point that almost certainly he will get nothing like the support that he got last time," said Cain.

Pelosi understands the challenge. This week when she came to the South of Market clinic, she brought a student from Berkeley with her -- Paula Villescaz.

"Hi, my name is Paula Villescaz and I'm a graduating senior at the University of California Berkeley," said Villescaz.

About a year ago Paula Villescaz discovered she had a rare form of bone cancer.

"I am proof that it can happen without warning to anyone at anytime," said Villescaz.

ABC7 asked Villescaz about the polls and the students' reaction and what that might mean for the Obama campaign in 2012.

"I think my immediate response is that it's up to me and it's up to young people like me to get the word out," said Villescaz.

Villescaz and the Health Care Act supporters have an uphill battle. The polls show that more Americans disapprove of the Affordable Health Care Act and you can bet that Republicans will be talking a lot about that individual mandates and its requirements when the presidential campaigns kick off this summer.


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